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Riots erupt in Malmö after far-right activists burn Koran

At least 10 people were arrested, and several police officers injured, in violence which broke out in southern Sweden after an anti-Muslim Danish politician was blocked from attending a Koran-burning rally, police said on Saturday.

Riots erupt in Malmö after far-right activists burn Koran
Rioters burn tyres on Amiralsgatan, Malmö on Friday night. Photo: TT
Well over 300 rioters were on Malmö's Amiralsgatan street, south of the Rosengård Centrum shopping centre, smashing bus shelters, overturning lampposts and destroying billboards. 
 
According to Malmö police, about 15 suspected rioters were arrested during the night, in violence which broke out in southern Sweden after a Koran-burning rally by far-extremists. Rasmus Paludan, leader of Denmark's far-Right anti-immigration Hard Line party was blocked from attending.
 
All of those arrested were released on Saturday morning. Police told The Local that about 13 people were likely to be charged with rioting offences, and told Sydsvenskan that they were currently looking for a few individuals who they suspected of encouraging young men at a peaceful demonstration to turn violent. 
 
“It's not right,” Malmo resident Shahed told the SVT public broadcaster. “But it wouldn't have happened if they hadn't burnt the Koran,” he added.
   
Rasmus Paludan, who leads the far-right Danish anti-immigration party Hard Line, was due to travel to Malmo to speak at Friday's event, which was being held on the same day as main weekly prayers for Muslims.
   
But authorities pre-empted Paludan's arrival by announcing he had been banned from entering Sweden for two years. He was later arrested near Malmo.
   
“We suspect that he was going to break the law in Sweden,” Calle Persson, spokesman for the police in Malmo told AFP.
 
“There was also a risk that his behaviour… would pose a threat to society.”
   
But his supporters went ahead with the rally, during which six people were arrested for inciting racial hatred.
   
“It hurts,” Salim Mohammed Ali, a Muslim resident of Malmo for over 20 years, told SVT on Saturday.
   
“People get angry and I understand that, but there are other ways of doing things,” he added.
   
Paludan last year attracted media attention for burning a Koran wrapped in bacon — a meat that is anathema for Muslims.   
   
Malmo is an industrial city of 320,000 inhabitants. In 2017, more than half the city's population, 53.6 percent, were either foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent. 
 
The riot started at around 7pm and continued up until 3am in the morning. 
 
The trouble flared after an incident earlier in the day in which members of Denmark's far-right Hard Line (Stram Kurs) party burned a copy of the Islamic holy book in the Malmö district of Emilstorp.
 
 
Police blocked off the street at the crossroads with Norra Grängebergsgatan, with the police presence increasing through the night until there were dozens of vans, several of which were armoured riot vans. 
 
Rioters pelted the police with stones, street furniture, burnt tyres and fired off fireworks, flares and bangers. 
 
“No member of the public has been wounded, but a few police officers are lightly wounded. Things have just been raining down on them,” Söderberg told TT. 
 
Patric Fors, another police spokesperson, said that police would be out on the streets of Rosengård on Saturday morning. 
 
“We have kept checks out there during the night but it remained calm, now this morning we're going to put in place confidence-building measures. Police will be moving around on feed, and talking with residents,” he told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. 
 
 
   
 
Samir Muric, a Malmö imam, condemned the rioters on his Facebook page. 
 
“Those who are acting in this way have nothing to do with Islam,” he wrote. Their shouts filled with 'la ilaha ill Allah' and 'Allahu Akbar' are just outbursts that they do not mean, because if they really meant that, they wouldn't have acted like this.” 
 
He said he was against all forms of burning “whether it's of the Koran or of tyres and crates”. 
 

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SHOOTINGS

US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success

The US criminologist behind the anti-gang strategy designed to reduce the number of shootings and explosions in Malmö has credited the city and its police for the "utterly pragmatic, very professional, very focused" way they have put his ideas into practice.

US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success
Johan Nilsson/TT

In an online seminar with Malmö mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, David Kennedy, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said implementing his Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy had gone extremely smoothly in the city.

“What really stands out about the Malmö experience is contrary to most of the places we work,” he said. “They made their own assessment of their situation on the ground, they looked at the intervention logic, they decided it made sense, and then, in a very rapid, focused and business-like fashion, they figured out how to do the work.”

He said that this contrasted with police and other authorities in most cities who attempt to implement the strategy, who tend to end up “dragging their feet”, “having huge amounts of political infighting”, and coming up with reasons why their city is too different from other cities where the strategy has been a success.

Malmö’s Sluta Skjut (Stop Shooting) pilot scheme was extended to a three-year programme this January, after its launch in 2018 coincided with a reduction in the number of shootings and explosions in the city.

“We think it’s a good medicine for Malmö for breaking the negative trend that we had,” Malmö police chief Stefan Sintéus said, pointing to the fall from 65 shootings in 2017 to 20 in 2020, and in explosions from 62 in 2017 to 17 in 2020.

A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of shootings from 2017 to 2020. Graph: Malmö Police
A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of explosions in the city between 2017 and 2020. Graph: Malmö Police

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In their second evaluation of the programme, published last month, Anna-Karin Ivert, Caroline Mellgren, and Karin Svanberg, three criminologists from Malmö University, reported that violent crime had declined significantly since the program came into force, and said that it was possible that the Sluta Skjut program was partly responsible, although it was difficult to judge exactly to what extent. 

The number of shootings had already started to decline before the scheme was launched, and in November 2019, Sweden’s national police launched Operation Rimfrost, a six-month crackdown on gang crime, which saw Malmö police reinforced by officers from across Sweden.

But Kennedy said he had “very little sympathy” for criminologists critical of the police’s decision to launch such a massive operation at the same time as Sluta Skjut, making it near impossible to evaluate the programme.

“Evaluation is there to improve public policy, public policy is not there to provide the basis for for sophisticated evaluation methodology,” he argued.

“When people with jobs to do, feel that they need to do things in the name of public safety, they should follow their professional, legal and moral judgement. Not doing something to save lives, because it’s going to create evaluation issues, I think, is simply privileging social science in a way that it doesn’t deserve.”

US criminologist David Kennedy partaking in the meeting. Photo: Richard Orange

Sluta Skjut has been based around so-called ‘call-ins’, in which known gang members on probation are asked to attend meetings, where law enforcement officials warn them that if shootings and explosions continue, they and the groups around them will be subject to intense focus from police.

At the same time, social workers and other actors in civil society offer help in leaving gang life.

Of the 250-300 young men who have been involved in the project, about 40 have been sent to prison, while 49 have joined Malmö’s ‘defector’ programme, which helps individuals leave gangs.

Kennedy warned not to focus too much on the number of those involved in the scheme who start to work with social services on leaving gang life.

“What we find in in practice is that most of the impact of this approach doesn’t come either because people go to prison or because they take services and leave gang life,” he said.

“Most of the impact comes from people simply putting their guns down and no longer being violent.”

“We think of the options as continuing to be extremely dangerous, or completely turning one’s life around. That’s not realistic in practice. Most of us don’t change that dramatically ever in our lives.”

He stressed the importance of informal social control in his method, reaching those who gang members love and respect, and encouraging them to put pressure on gang members to abstain from gun violence.

“We all care more about our mothers than we care about the police, and it turns out that if you can find the guy that this very high risk, very dangerous person respects – literally, you know, little old ladies will go up to him and get his attention and tell him to behave himself. And he will.”

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